Summing over Geometries in String Theory

Research paper by Lorenz Eberhardt

Indexed on: 25 Feb '21Published on: 24 Feb '21Published in: arXiv - High Energy Physics - Theory


We examine the question how string theory achieves a sum over bulk geometries with fixed asymptotic boundary conditions. We discuss this problem with the help of the tensionless string on $\mathcal{M}_3 \times \mathrm{S}^3 \times \mathbb{T}^4$ (with one unit of NS-NS flux) that was recently understood to be dual to the symmetric orbifold $\text{Sym}^N(\mathbb{T}^4)$. We strengthen the analysis of arXiv:2008.07533 and show that the perturbative string partition function around a fixed bulk background already includes a sum over semi-classical geometries and large stringy corrections can be interpreted as various semi-classical geometries. We argue in particular that the string partition function on a Euclidean wormhole geometry factorizes completely into factors associated to the two boundaries of spacetime. Central to this is the remarkable property of the moduli space integral of string theory to localize on covering spaces of the conformal boundary of $\mathcal{M}_3$. We also emphasize the fact that string perturbation theory computes the grand canonical partition function of the family of theories $\bigoplus_N\text{Sym}^N(\mathbb{T}^4)$. The boundary partition function is naturally expressed as a sum over winding worldsheets, each of which we interpret as a `stringy geometry'. We argue that the semi-classical bulk geometry can be understood as a condensate of such stringy geometries. We also briefly discuss the effect of ensemble averaging over the Narain moduli space of $\mathbb{T}^4$ and of deforming away from the orbifold by the marginal deformation.